Rainstorms are rare enough in Egypt, which makes hailstorms in the desert even more unimaginable.
The Destruction of Hailstorms for Desert Dwellers
Those of us who have lived inland, in rugged terrain know the damage hailstorms cause us – what a horror it must have been for these desert people! Imagine a world without insurance. Imagine a home where everything is built by your own hands. In Egypt, surrounded by desert, people may have slept on their roofs at night to stay cool. Storms were terrifying and kept the people awake until they passed. In this land of sandy soil, treasured trees and crops struggled against the wind. Can you imagine waking huddling in terror in whatever stone or brick structure you could find long enough for the lightning and thunder to cease, only to emerge to a home that looked like a war zone?
Who Does God Warn?
With the last three plagues, the plague of flies, pestilence, and boils, God made a distinction between the Egyptian and Hebrew people. The same thing happens here. The land of Goshen, where the Hebrew people live is spared from the desert hailstorms, while the Egyptians and devastated. If the Hebrew people are protected, who then is the warning given to at the beginning of this passage?
It is given to the Egyptians. God has not given up on them completely, even though the time for negotiations passed. Even though God is actively hardening Pharaoh’s heart and is sending the full set of plagues, including these desert hailstorms. He still shows mercy to those Egyptians you listen and obey Him. Run, and seek shelter. Your leaders have abandoned you, but you do no have to suffer all the consequences of their actions.
Yet they will still suffer some. First their livestock were killed by pestilence. Now their crops are damaged. The mighty civilization of Egypt became hunter-gatherers within a few short weeks, thanks to the hailstorms, and that is no easy feet in the desert. If they wanted food, they were going to have to rely on the Hebrew people, the very people they were oppressing.
What do you see here?
I’d love to hear what you see in this passage. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this text.